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MZ Berger takes T-Ink talk into gift aisles

Looking to spice up your accessories business? You might want to check out the latest lines on offer from New York-based watch manufacturer MZ Berger. The company's reputation for innovation and capturing the essence of a character is well-established in the watch world, with timepieces like the NickTime Silly Sounds featuring four built-in sound-effect buttons (cough, burp, fart and snore). Now the company is pushing the envelope in novelty gifts and accessories.
September 1, 2004

Looking to spice up your accessories business? You might want to check out the latest lines on offer from New York-based watch manufacturer MZ Berger. The company’s reputation for innovation and capturing the essence of a character is well-established in the watch world, with timepieces like the NickTime Silly Sounds featuring four built-in sound-effect buttons (cough, burp, fart and snore). Now the company is pushing the envelope in novelty gifts and accessories.

MZ Berger has licensed T-Ink’s proprietary conductive ink technology, which can be applied to paper or plastic and acts as an electronic circuit. The touch of a hand or moisture from a marker completes the circuit (no wires, micro chips or on/off switches required) and activates an electronic feature such as sound. MZ Berger currently holds the exclusive rights to use T-Ink in watches, clocks, jewelry boxes, coin banks, tea sets, miniature soda fountain sets and gumball machines.

But rather than applying it immediately to its core watch business, MZ Berger has chosen jewelry boxes, coin banks, desk sets and accessories to be its first T-Inked products. The plan is to use the tech to boost its year-old gift division’s credibility with retailers. ‘We want to get the industry talking,’ says Rosemary Sharp, president of accessories and gift.

First out will be a licensed line of jewelry boxes, coin banks and desk sets featuring Barbie, SpongeBob SquarePants, 4Kids’ art property The Dog and Coca-Cola. Barbie’s My Special Things talking desk set features a resin-cast Barbie perched on an accessories tray and accompanied by a post-it note holder, a sneaker-topped stapler, a purse pencil sharpener and a T-shirt stamper. When you touch any of these objects while they’re on the tray, they will say things like ‘Call me later!’ ‘That boy is so cute!’ or ‘What a great outfit!’ Similarly, The Dog’s line of flocked coin banks will make one of six different canine sounds when you ‘pet’ them.

The talking items will roll out next month in U.S. specialty retail channels, with items ranging from US$15 to US$35. Sharp says she is on the hunt for more properties and would like to move beyond the initial categories in 2005, although she was still working on an expansion plan at press time.

About The Author
Lana Castleman is the Editor & Content Director of Kidscreen and oversees all content for Kidscreen magazine, kidscreen.com and related kidscreen events. lcastleman@brunico.com

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